From Dust to Dust, With Reincarnation In Between: A Midsommar Review

It's never just a bear.

Dani is a master of "just" feeling things. She's just wondering if Christian will come by tonight. She just wishes he would have told her he was planning on leaving for Sweden. And it's okay he forgot her birthday or that their anniversary is coming up in two weeks - maybe it's just her being dramatic. She does her best to take as little space in the world as she can. There’s no one to encourage her to do otherwise.

The couple MIDSOMMAR's cold open introduces us to shows all the signs of one that is seconds away from breaking up. Dani's grief is the only thing that prompts Christian to stay with her a little longer. There's no love left on his part; it's unclear if there ever was. And as for Dani, Christian is the only part of her old life she has left. Apart from one off-screen friend, it is unclear how socially connected she is. Christian is the closest thing to family. For now.

Even after spending only five minutes with them, it is clear that their relationship is a ticking bomb, waiting to burst into flames. As it does, Dani screams in pain, in unison with the entire village. They all share her feelings, Christian's feelings, both their pain is acknowledged. But only one remains standing. And only one smiles as the camera fades to black.

This is family. This is safety. This is a new birth. She is the queen and nothing and no one can stop her. But for how long?

From an outside perspective, it is easier to identify unhealthy relationships, especially when they are presented in such an obviously negative light. Christian doesn't outright belittle Dani, but he rarely acknowledges her either. She's not the only person he tries to gaslight: the difference is that his friends either outright call him out (Josh) or just don't care. Dani is too far deep to think about any other option. She might not know she deserves a better option, but anyone with the tiniest experience of relationships does.

Harga is obviously horrific by many aspects. Dani is not insensitive to the community's oddness. She's as horrified by the sacrifices as everyone else is, maybe even more. It is suspicious that her friends are disappearing one by one.

But then, the beautiful starts outweighing the bad. It starts in a subtle way. Pelle is Dani's first step inside the community. He is everything Christian isn't. Caring, attentive. He tries to relate to her, to dig into the trauma she bottled up. It’s already more than simple friendliness; and then it gets bigger. The women give her a place in the society. They cook together, then they dance together. It’s not enough for her to be their equal: she rises above everyone else. Pelle had told her since the beginning that she was a queen. The women told her not to look inside the building. They were always right. About Christian, about her, about everything. She’s finally found people she can trust again. A family.

But what happens once the festival ends?

The biggest mistake one could make while watching MIDSOMMAR is to think that its last minutes is an ending. The story goes on for Dani even after the credits roll. And it most likely doesn't end well. If we had seen the obvious toxicity of Christian, Harga's is much less in your face. They really seem to believe in the absolute goodness and rationality of what they're doing. Rare are the moments when they're not all smiles with their guests. They justify their crimes towards others so pleasantly that they almost make sense. "See how they all treated you," they say. "They deserved it." They persuade her that they would never do anything like that to her. She's special, after all. With every death is a promise of a beautiful future, one where she is queen of a kingdom no one can take from her.

But what happens when the next year comes by and she's not queen anymore? Then what happens the next one? Then what happens when she's seventy-two, staring down at a crowd of people she trusted, wondering if she truly made the right choice, or if she ever had a choice in the first place?

Abusive traits are terrifying by how normalized they are. Some people will only ever know toxic relationships, or at least some with severe power imbalances. Women, more often than not, will be on the receiving side of this imbalance. Dani is one of them. Christian probably used to be like Pelle, and Harga in general: someone who gives severe red flags towards others but is so good at promising you to treat you well that you have no choice but to believe it. And when he does start treating you badly, it must be your own fault, right? He promised, after all.

The sad flip side of Harga is that most people don't need insane looking drugs to warp another person's perception of reality. That taking away flower crowns aren't necessary to make a woman feel like much less than a queen. And that shitty boyfriends and damaged women are more common than anything else in today’s dating world. Dani was a victim of Christian's neglect, then of Pelle's grooming. She'll only be a queen for as long as they let her. Don't let yourself be fooled: power is too precious to give any of it to someone who is so good at being powerless.

probably napping

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